John Watermann – Calcutta Gas Chamber

In 2006, Cold Spring records has re-released a record from 1993. It only recently came to my attention, so I would not have written about it on this weblog (for it would be ‘old news’) – if it’s thematic content wouldn’t be so shocking.
John Watermann‘s album is called ‘Calcutta Gas Chamber’ – and that about says all.  Story goes that the recording artist has visited India in the early 90’s and came across nightmare-ish giant gas chambers that the Indian government used for ‘population control’.

Elegi – Sistereis

Sistereis

‘Sistereis’ is the opposite of a ship’s maiden voyage. It’s a ship’s doomed final voyage.

“All was as it had been upon my previous visit, save that the picture which I have described as having hung at the end of his bed had been cut out of it’s frame, as with a knife, and was gone. With this last link in a strange chain of evidence I close my diary of the voyage”

Machinefabriek – Weleer

Weleer

“Weleer” (Formerly, in old times) is the well chosen title for the 2CD selection of work from more than 30 3″-cd’s that Rutger “machinefabriek” Zuydervelt released last years. Most of these will be very hard to find, so this album is a good starting point for those that want to know what sort of stuff the machinefabriek produces.

This prolific musician (from Arnhem, Holland) draws some international attention (how do foreigners pronounce titles like “gruis uit het plafond”?) with his noise and drone experiments, as well as with his lovely naïve electro-acoustics (not unlike Colleen or Goldmund).

Weleer is a varied collection, but not for the faint of heart: not everyone will like all of the tracks. It’s impressing that one man can deliver so much great work in such short time. Machinefabriek deserves all respect and praise for his work, and not only from Holland!

Alva Noto – XERROX

William Basinski has built almost his entire oeuvre on deteriorating copies of original tape recordings. (The Disintegration Loops may be the best example).
So, when reading about the new Alva Noto release, Xerrox, I had to suppress a ‘not again’ yawn..

“Via the technique of duplication the copy often contains mistakes and glitches that differ from the original. The mutating copy emerges as a new original and thereby provides space for development”

The Innocence Mission – We Walked in Song

It’s hard to tell what it is exactly that touches me everytime I hear the songs of The Innocence Mission. Is it the pureness (innocence?) of singer-songwriter Karen’s voice, reminding me of early 10.000 Maniacs? (This connection is no coincidence: Karen and Don Peris contributed to Natalie Merchant’s Ophelia).
Is it the open, seemingly simple, acoustic arrangements played by Don Peris on guitar and Mike Bitts on bass?
Is it the combination? Does it matter, anyway? 
What really matters is that The Innocence Mission released at least TEN records, and that none of these gained any serious attention in Europe. Please, notice them! You can start with ‘We Walked in Song’ and work backwards from there…

Nest – Nest

Ambient music collectors no longer visit the local record shop to find the latest releases. Most of the times, the titles are not even stocked. Still, the genre is lively and growing bigger than it ever was. Not through the ‘old’ distribution channels and brick and mortar shops, but through the internet mostly. This weblog only covers a small tip of the iceberg of the music available.

Arve Henriksen – Strjon

On this third solo project Arve Henriksen is accompanied by two fellow Supersilent members: Helge Sten (a.k.a. DeathProd) and Ståle Storløkken. Unlike most of the Supersilent albums Strjon breathes a natural, Zen-like balance and peacefulness.
Henriksen’s trumpet-playing is perfectly balanced with the almost chilling sound sculptures accompanying it.

Pole – Steingarten

Looking at the cover should be your first warning. Steingarten shows the kind of castle even Disney would have considered ‘over the top’. In a landscape you could never even imagine.
The warning seems to serve a purpose, because at first casual listen this album feels far more lightweight than earlier Pole albums. We did not expect this kind of poppy electronics from Stefan Betke!
Well: time to adjust the expectations and retry.

Pocka – Uhrwerk

Pocka - Uhrwerk

Good news for those of you that are fascinated by the current Buddha Machine hype (like me) : there’s a free download available of the album Uhrwerk by Pocka here.
It may not be as layered as Robert Henke’s ‘Layering Buddha’, but the sound of these Buddha Machine interpretations is very comfortable and authentic.
The recognisable Buddha Machine loops are enhanced by subtle bass guitar, piano, guitar pedals and software effects.

Michael Fahres – The Tubes featuring Jon Hassell

Michael Fahres - The Tubes

Cold Blue Music, a Californian record label that everyone enjoying contemporary ambient/electronic/minimalism should follow closely, is about to release a cd called “The Tubes” by Michael Fahres.

On the title track of this fascinating album, Fahres recorded the acoustic effect of the rock tube formations on El Hierro: a breathing sound created by waves forcing air through the volcanic rocks. Mixed with Jon Hassell’s breathy trumpet playing and Mark Atkins’ haunting didgeridoo, this piece is an ode to the breath of life itself…

Greg Haines – Slumber Tides

Greg Haines - Slumber Tides

In between the growing names of contemporary (post-)classic composers, Greg Haines’ debut stands out for it’s own style. It’s not trying to be too ‘classical’, because it’s more electronic than just that. But on the other hand it’s not exactly ‘ambient’ too (to continue the previous post about the ambient subgenres: we could define this music as ‘classbient’ – classy classic ambient 🙂 )

The record label Miasmah namedrops some of Greg’s inspirations: Arvo Pärt, Ryan Teague, William Basinski… If these names mean anything to you you know where to go. And dont’ forget Colleen for the sound of the glockenspiel.

This is a great cd for the dark winter days coming up!

Robert Henke – Layering Buddha

Robert Henke - Layering Buddha

It seems there’s an ongoing outbreak of Buddha Machine–inspired releases…

Only a few days ago I reported about the ‘Buddha Jukebox’, containing all sorts of remixes based on the original Buddha Machine samples. One day later I stumble across this Robert ‘Monolake’ Henke release. (One track of his CD is also featured on the Jukebox Buddha: check the sample track below).

Compared to the Jukebox Buddha, there’s quite a different feel. Whereas the Jukebox Buddha explores all possible surfaces of the Buddha Machine, Henke dives deep into the soul of it. He has magnified the sounds, enhanced the unheard artifacts and created a layered soundspace that has ZEN written all over it.

It’s astonishingly beautiful (and not unlike his last year’s ‘Signal to Noise’ release).

Conceptually it’s lightyears away from the original FM3 Buddha machine, which was deliberately lo-fi and poor sounding.
But that really doesn’t matter at all. The Buddha Machine now has its own spin off of peaceful sounding drone recordings – would FM3 ever have imagined that their lo-fi anti-Ipod machine would ultimately lead to a whole new sub-genre??

Note:
The  original Buddha Machine sounds and the CD spinoffs will be featured in the FOLIO show early 2007.

The Jukebox Buddha

Jukebox Buddha

About a year ago the chinese duo FM3 released the Buddha Machine. 9 short ambient loops, to be played through a lo-fi plastic player with a deliberate crappy speaker. The ultimate ‘Anti-Ipod’ concept created an instant hype, and even those that cannot stand ambient music fell in love with this device after holding it. (The Buddha Machine is still available, so get one while you can).

A full year later we hear the beloved samples again on the cd Jukebox Buddha, in compositions much more complex. Among the artists showing their respect are some well-known names: Kammerflimmer Kollektief, Adrian Sherwood/Doug Wimbish, Robert Henke, Thomas Fehlmann, Blixa Bargeld, Sun O))). 
Impressing electronics for the more adventurous listener. Pay honour to the conceptual statement the Buddha Machine was/is.

Geir Jenssen – Cho Oyu 8201m

Geir Jenssen - Cho Oyu

Geir Jenssen, aka Biosphere, has conquered Tibet’s Cho Oyu –the sixth heighest mountain of the world. That, in itself, is a quite remarkable fact. Climbing mountains this high involves a lot of waiting,  to accomodate to the changing circumstances – and at those moments the Minidisc recorder came in handy. The beautiful package of Cho Oyu 8102 m – Field Recordings from Tibet contains a diary of this journey, as well as said field recordings.

The fact that this is released under Geir’s own name and not as Biosphere, is a statement in itself. This is not meant as musical compositions, it’s a Tibet soundscape. Still, in Geir’s hands, the use of the samples has a distinct musical quality, not unlike the Biosphere projects. It’s a document in itself – you can almost feel the impressive landscape, and imagine quite clearly how it feels to slowly lose contact with civilization ( the shortwave radio recordings like the sample track here). And how hard the journey itself can be (Neighbours on oxygen).

It must be the fact that these sounds illustrate Geir’s personal struggle with the mountain that makes this CD much more impressive than the latest Biosphere release Dropsonde.

Goldmund – The Heart Of High Places

Goldmund - Heart of high places

The sound of Goldmund (Keith Kenniff’s) piano on this record definitely reminds me of the early Harold Budd recording The Serpent (in Quicksilver).
The intimately recorded piano sound (including all pedal movements and instument cracking), the emotional melancholy themes…
Take, for example, this first track: ‘Unbraiding the Sun’. It’s only 1’33”, but put it on repeat and you’ve got a beautiful Satie-esque soundtrack.

The music of this short 6-track 7″ will haunt you much longer that the 10 minutes of music it consists.

Jacob Kirkegaard – 4 Rooms

Jacob Kirkegaard - 4 Rooms

If you record a room’s resonation, feed back the recording into that room and record it again, and do this a couple of time so that the feedback gets stronger and stronger, will the result reveal the ‘soul’ of that room?
And will something in this ‘soul’ reveal the fact that these rooms were once busy with people (church, gymnasium, swimming pool, auditorium) but are now completely desolated?
And will you be able to hear the fact that these rooms are all located in the Tchernobyl disaster area?

This, as you may guess, is not intended as ‘easy background ambient’.  The result is not unlike some of Thomas Köner’s work – but it’s the concept that makes is almost frightening.